Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to Yard Sale Like a Pro #2: Find Sales, Plan Your Route and Be Prepared

It had to happen eventually: after a ridiculously long run of sunny (and mostly warm) weather, the heavens opened up and let 'er rip for the better part of the day yesterday. I can't complain - we really, really needed that rain as we had almost no snow this past winter and hardly any rain this spring. Unfortunately, the forecast for today was just questionable enough that people were hesitant to put out their yard sale wares this morning. I did meander over to a street sale in my neighbourhood, which turned out to only have a couple of sales going on because of the weather. I didn't find anything interesting, and as the skies were looking dark, I decided to come home and have another cup of coffee rather than ride all over west Hamilton to check out sales that might or might not be running. Mother Nature being as fickle as she is, as I write this the skies are starting to clear and the sun is peeking out. Ah well - there's always next week, right?

Anyway, since I didn't get any good yard sale action this morning, I figured it was just about time for another installment of my "How to Yard Sale Like a Pro" series (I kicked things off back in April with "Go, and Go Often!"). This week I'm going to talk about how to find sales and plan your route, as well as the items you should bring with you to have a more efficient and pleasant shopping experience.

Finding sales:
It used to be that the newspaper classifieds were your best source of yard sale listings. Although not as many people choose to run newspaper ads anymore due to their cost, it's still worth checking there, especially since the larger sales like street sales and church rummage sales are almost always advertised in the newspaper and you don't want to miss those!

By far the most common source of listings in my area these days is online classifieds. Kijiji is the most active online classified site here, but in other areas it's Craigslist. Kijiji has a nice feature where you can limit your ad search to a certain distance from your location, which is very handy when looking at the yard sale ads. There are often hundreds of yard sale ads, but if I limit my search to a 5 km radius from my house (generally what I stick to since I shop by bike) I only have to wade through a small percentage of those ads to find the ones I'm looking for.

Another way I find sales is by keeping an eye on telephone poles and community boards when I'm out and about. Often I'll find a couple of sales that weren't in the paper or on Kijiji to add to my list.

Finally, I always stay on the lookout for more sales when I'm actually out yard sale shopping. Very often, I'll find unadvertised sales running near other sales that were on my list (especially if there's a big street sale or a large cluster of sales in the area like there was last week). I find being on a bike is a big advantage here; since I'm moving slower than a car it's easier for me to spot those "unexpected sales" and safely stop to check them out.

When you're making your yard sale list, make sure to note any sales that have unusual start times. Most sales will start between 8 and 9 a.m., but occasionally there will be one that starts at 7 or 10 and that information is useful when planning your route!

Plan Your Route:
Now it's time to grab a map and plan an efficient route. I generally start with the sales closest to me and work my way out to the furthest away. I might choose to do the opposite if there is a particularly great sounding sale that's further away (especially if it starts at 8 a.m. or earlier) or if there's a sale close by that doesn't start until 10 a.m. Either way, though, I'm looking to choose the most efficient route so I can get to the maximum number of sales in the shortest amount of time. Remember to be polite and don't show up at a sale an hour before it's supposed to start - this will NOT endear you to the proprietor!

Grab Your Gear:
Over the years, I've found it handy to have a few things with me when I'm out and about yard sale shopping. This includes a map (I don't often need it, but occasionally the location of a smaller street eludes me) a tape measure (for measuring furniture dimensions and pants inseams), a list of measurements and clothing sizes (e.g. how big is that space by the front door where you want to hang a mirror? Knowing the inseam and waist measurements  of your family members can be useful, too, in case you find some great clothes). Having a good assortment of small bills and loose change is also extremely handy and allows you to bargain more effectively. When you're looking at smaller items, it's a lot easier to ask "Will you take 25 cents for this?" if you can just hand over the quarter, rather than producing a $20 bill and expecting them to make change. If you have a long list of sales to hit and expect to be out for quite a while, a bottle of water and a snack can keep you feeling energized throughout your excursion.

Do you have any tips for making yard sale shopping more efficient? 

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